Postcards from a Cataclysm

This could have been a disaster. Radio 4 decided they wanted to create a new format for drama, something for the iPod generation – a moving story in bite-size chunks that could work as a single piece on broadcast radio or be downloaded as individual tracks. The result was the first ever ‘Radio Drama concept album,’ Postcards from a Cataclysm.

I was designated Lead Writer on the project, coming up with a concept that other writers and collaborators could use as a framework for their own stories, told their own way.

The overarching story involved the imminent impact of an asteroid that will most likely wipe out the UK. But before it hits, strange physical and metaphysical effects begin to influence people all over the country.

“Will go on lingering in the mind”

Daily Telegraph, Editor’s Choice

And what a mixture of collaborators we had: poet Rommi Smith, radio dramatist Lizzie Nunnery, comedian Josie Long, playwright Tim Crouch, Kneehigh Theatre’s Carl Grose and collaborative theatre company The Factory – plus a gospel choir.

The cast were fantastic too. In my two-part story, I was lucky enough to get the legendary Kenneth Cranham and Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Tim Key, but there were scores of actors involved. The Factory recorded crowd scenes in The Globe Theatre with more than 50 performers. The whole thing was produced by the redoubtable James Robinson.

The result is an incredible array of styles, quickly switching from monologues to soundscapes, from public to private, from comedy to tragedy. The best summary came from Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor Jeremy Howe:

“Simple when it needed to be, epic when it needed to be, disturbing and stomach churning… it is a really stand-out, different piece of radio, wonderfully ambitious and simple at the same time… A really good example of how experimental radio can sit happily in a mainstream slot like the Afternoon Play.”